The Tehachapi area provides exciting opportunities for both casual and avid hikers with the world-famous Pacific Crest Trail and Mountain Park trailheads nearby. Would-be hikers, however, need to use caution when striking out on their own, since much of the land in and around Tehachapi is privately owned. Also, some of the hikes available must be done with a guide, such as the nature tours of Tomo-Kahni State Park.
In addition, visitors should be aware that there are large predators — such as black bears, mountain lions and coyotes — prowling our backwoods, as well as several species of rattlesnakes, scorpions and spiders. So, be prepared, be careful and enjoy the gorgeous views.
Beauty of the Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail is a National Scenic Trail that traverses the upper elevations of the West from Mexico to Canada. Covering 2,652 miles, the trail passes through six of seven of North America's eco zones including high and low desert, old-growth forest and arctic-Alpine country. About 300 hikers attempt to complete the entire trek each year, but thousands more enjoy exploring sections of the trail.
Tehachapi is a popular stop for hikers to resupply and pick up mail since there are two major PCT trailheads in the area. If hikers need a ride into town — 10-15 miles away — they can check online at TrailAngelList.org to find local volunteers to provide transportation and sometimes even lodging.
“We're glad to do it,” said one local volunteer, Mike Mosher. “We'll pick them up, take them into town to find lodging or restock. We get quite a few calls.”
Willow Springs Road Trailhead
Hikers can access the trail near the intersection of Tehachapi-Willow Springs and Cameron Canyon roads.
There are two options here: Hikers can head southwest toward Cottonwood Creek in the Antelope Valley (roughly 22 miles), or they can head northeast for a more leisurely hike among the wind turbines toward Highway 58 (5.9 miles).
The hike to Cottonwood Creek is long, but hikers can always hike to the top of the ridge and back. The trail is steep as it climbs the ridge toward Bean Canyon, and levels out at the top. The area also is used by many off-highway vehicles, which can sometimes make the trail confusing or hard to find. Also, there is no water on this section for hikers, so bring your own.
Those hikers taking the easier route toward Highway 58 will get a closeup view of some of the area's many famous wind turbines — and find out why they are there. It's an easy, short route, but it does get windy. Also, no water on this section, either.
Highway 58 at Cameron Canyon Road Trailhead
This section of trail is for the heartiest of hikers because it ascends to the top of the ridge overlooking Waterfall Canyon, climbing about 2,000 feet in eight miles. It's rugged country, so be prepared. Hikers can hike 8.3 miles to the head of Waterfall Canyon, which has excellent geologic formations. Hikers who are in a little better shape can hike to Golden Oak Springs, eight miles farther.
Golden Oak Springs is a year-round spring and lies in a secluded glade. This is a great overnight camping area, but beware of bears. Keep food items out of harm's way, and absolutely no food in tents unless you'd like a 400-pound nocturnal visitor.
Tehachapi Mountain Park
Located about eight miles southwest of Tehachapi, this Kern County park offers both hiking and nature trails for all levels of ability, as well as limited camping. The Nuooah Nature Trail loops one quarter mile within the park at an elevation of 5,920 feet and bears 20 markers that correspond to 20 different points of interest.
The interpretative nature trail was built and is maintained by Boy Scout Troop 104 with the help of the CDF Fenner Canyon Crews. The park also is a jumping-off point for longer hikes to the 7,986-foot crest of Woody's Peak.
Parking is limited, especially in the winter, and visitors should be careful to stay off private property adjacent to the park. For more information go to co.kern.ca.us/parks/tehachapi.asp or call the Kern County Parks Department at 661-868-7000.
Tomo-Kahni State Park
Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park was created as a unit of California State Parks in 1993 to protect and preserve the integrity of this unique archaelogical site.
Nestled atop a ridge in the Tehachapi Mountains, overlooking Sand Canyon to the east and the Tehachapi valley to the west, Tomo-Kahni, or "Winter Village," was the site of an early Kawaiisu village.
Because of the archeological and environmental sensitivity of the site, Tomo Kahni nature hikes are available to the public by tour only. These tours are led by trained state park volunteers on weekends during the spring and fall months and begin with orientation at the Tehachapi Museum.
For more information go to parks.ca.gov or call the state Parks Department at 916-653-6995.